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Several surveys have shown that the majority of people surveyed found speaking to an audience to be the most frightening thing they could imagine, ahead of dying.

Public speaking can be scary. The overwhelming fear we have of speaking to an audience is the fear of failure, that we will muck it up, lose credibility. 

Another fear is not knowing what you're talking about or not having a depth of knowledge about the subject - but that shouldn't happen when you talk about your business because you probably know it inside out and believe in it passionately.

Why do you feel apprehensive?

Sometimes I'm not prepared for what I'm going to say or even the venue makes me feel uneasy. I even get worried about the size of the audience. How can I get over these things?

One reason we feel apprehensive is because we don't have vocal control. 

Our voices sound boring or we're so keen to get it over and done with that we speak too quickly. Some people talk in a monotone, where the speech is delivered on a single level of sound. It's very boring to listen to. Some people talk too quickly. The problem is people need to absorb what someone is talking about.

How can I improve?    

Listen to people who present well, like newsreaders. See how clearly they say each word, they don't rush as if there's no tomorrow. If you rush and mumble there's lack of expression in your speech.

Learn to come down at the end of each sentence - listen to the way the newsreaders do it - they always end with a falling inflection.

Coming down at the end of the sentence gives you more power.

That's why good newsreaders do it like that. It has authority.

How do I slow down?    

You need to pause to let people reflect on what you've said, to take a moment to process the information. And it helps get rid of 'ums and arrs.’

At first you'll feel as if the pause is going on forever but it's not - you'll get used to it. Smile, move, use your hands while the pause is happening. People are looking at you as well as listening. Movement can be very good because it uses up adrenalin as well - and that's the stuff that makes you feel nervous in the first place - so burning that up really does help.

What do you think of PowerPoint when doing a business demonstration?

Well it has its place but PowerPoint can take over a presentation; people are using it the wrong way. You see, people really want to hear you - particularly in business because they want to get an idea of whether to trust you or not.

When you're selling or developing a relationship it's all about trust and how can someone trust you if they're just watching the PowerPoint screen?

What's the best way to learn quickly?    

YOU know the best way is to practise - you know the saying "Practise slowly learn quickly." With speaking or presenting you have to get up and do it again and again and again. If you have the opportunity see if you can have a presentation that you do videotaped or filmed. You will learn so much about yourself that you will improve 100 per cent the next time you speak. Let go of your fear and have the courage to speak out. If you want to succeed in business you really do have to get out of your comfort zone.

Published on: Sunday, June 28, 2009

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